Little White House





Intro: This is the centenary of the birth year of American President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. VOA's Don Weaver visited the grounds of what is known as the "Little White House" not far from Atlanta, Georgia and has this report.

Text: The state of Georgia obviously took great pride in the fact that President Franklin Roosevelt loved this region so much that he made frequent pilgrimages there to get away from the Washington routine and enjoy supreme natural surroundings.

Actually, Roosevelt reciprocated their affection and was so struck by the beauty of that state and its therapeutic waters that he purchased property and built a gracious but practical residence there.
The unpretentious, three-bedroom dwelling is nestled in a thick forest of southern pines in a rural area adjoining Warm Springs, Georgia, a leisurely two-hour drive from the bustling metropolis of Atlanta. Roosevelt designed the house and had it built while still Democratic governor of New York, before he was elected president in 1932.

October is an ideal time to tour the presidential grounds. The crowds of summer vacationers have thinned and the forests, with their turning leaves of near-Autumn, provide a stunning background for the gleaming, freshly-painted clapboards of the "Little White House."

Here one walks through the kitchen, where a tape-recording intones that everything is just as it was when President Roosevelt passed away in this home, in the final year of World War II.

The pantry has its old-fashioned kitchenware and a range of very-early model stands out. A burglar alarm system and modern fire sprinkler jar the mood slightly.

Proceeding into the living room and study the observer is informed that the table before the fireplace and a nearby chair mark the place where Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with the cerebral hemorrhage that took his life.

He loved the sea and the surroundings reflect that, with paintings of ships displayed here and there. On a mantel is a sailing ship model, pieced together by Roosevelt and a Secret Service agent who shared some relaxing moments with the chief executive.

The visitor is shown through the president's bedroom, where he spent his final moments before succumbing to the attack, about two hours after its onslaught. The décor is spare, the furnishings not lavish, indicative of the some work-some play purposes at hand.

Strolling through the house, a nearby museum and even the garage, one is struck by the spirit of Roosevelt-an indomitable man who refused to permit a crippling attack of polio to daunt his determined plunge into public service and politics.

A blue 1938 Ford Phaeton convertible looks ready to roll out of the garage onto the driveway. Its clutch and brakes were fitted with hand controls at a nearby machine shop so he could personally drive around country roads with the top down.

In his summer home, a short crop used for horseback riding escapades is exhibited, along with the dog chain he used for restraining his famous Scotch terrier, Fala.

The museum, actually a large house once owned by a neighbor but now part of the Roosevelt shrine, boasts a wide variety of objects that mark the activities and career of this most unusual man. There's one of his wheelchairs, scores of his walking canes, the saddle he used for horseback riding and photos of cabinet ministers and Georgians.

There are pictures of admirers and presidents, such as Democratic campaigner Jimmy Carter of the state of Georgia and a famous Massachusetts Democrat, Senator John Kennedy, who campaigned through Georgia in 1960.

One of the reasons for Roosevelt's constant visits to Warm Springs was the exercise and therapy of the spa's waters. President Roosevelt took particular delight in inviting children, stricken with the dread disease of polio before modern medicine curbed its ravages, to swim and play water games with him. Films show him reveling in such exercise, playing an energetic game of water polo. It's hard to judge who is enjoying the game more, the beaming, splashing president or the youngsters. He participated in award ceremonies for crippled children.

His weak limbs failed to phase or embarrass this courageous man--one film series shows him wearing leg braces and sitting on the ground, participating vibrantly in a picnic in the woods, one of his special outdoor loves.

Franklin Roosevelt's exuberance, his zest for life and his massive political skills are an inspiration for all peoples. An American politician had to be greatly gifted to become the only man elected U.S. president four times. He was a symbol of hope to the people of many nations during World War II. And even before that, he inaugurated policies that gave jobs and a future to millions of unemployed and disadvantaged Americans during the Great Depression of the 1930's.

To accomplish so much in the face of the physical adversity that struck so hard, and to rise above it so nobly, is a measure of the heart and will of a unique American. It can be sensed and appreciated at the "Little White House" at Warm Springs, Georgia.